Forgive me sports team for I have messed up big time.
Not only do I hold no true allegiance to any of you, I will gladly jump on a bandwagon if I think it will be around long enough to be worth buying a hat. I will gladly learn inane facts about a certain team’s players to make my allegiances a little transparent. A back-story, if you will allow.
I grew up in New York and spent many of my years watching the Knicks, Rangers, Giants, and Yankees. It wasn't so much that I enjoyed these teams; they were all that was on. As time went on, I came to like Penguins and not care too much about the NBA.
I toiled watching the Yankees in the late '80s, wondering if Donnie Baseball would ever get a shot at a ring. Mattingly became the closest thing to an icon I had when I was young. While many around me ran to Michael Jordan, I stuck with Mattingly. How little I knew in those days. However, here is by sport, my confessions. May they help some of you out there come to grips with your own front runner status.
Baseball: I have always been a closet Yankees fan. My first hat was of the Yankees. I idolized Don Mattingly as a kid. With years going by, I didn't think they would ever win. They just made too many decisions that at the time made no sense.
I traded in my first hat for a White Sox hat sometime in the early '90s. I am not sure what prompted the decision to root for the White Sox. The perception among the people in my school was that they were great. They were sadly wrong and the white and black Sox hat was retired for an Atlanta Braves hat.
This hat also didn't last long, as the Braves seemed to continually fall short of winning the elusive championship.
The labor strike gave me some time to evaluate which team I should route for. I came back to the childhood memories of Donnie Baseball and went back to the Yankees. Of course the following year the Braves finally won that elusive championship. Shortly after that was a stunning run of championships that to my dismay didn't include Mattingly. Much like the Braves, Mattingly was a victim of bad luck.
After that run ended I became increasingly detached from the Yankees for their lavish spending habits. These were nothing like the teams that I had grown up with. Actually despite what the win-loss record shows you, they were much worse.
It got bad enough that during the 2004 season I started a game to see how Derek Jeter would make an out in his current AB. This was meant to both make fun of Jeter and find something other than the team to look forward to.
After the depressing 2004 run, I stopped taking the Yankees seriously. They were an overpaid group of choke artists with too few gamers to get the job done. However, I actually found myself after 2004 routing for whatever team had some momentum. Hell, I ever rooted for the Red Sox at times. I did this knowing all too well about the "rivalry."
This year, I rooted for the Dodgers and the Rays. The Dodgers were a late season addition as I honestly thought Manny could carry that team to the World Series. I mean seriously, would he still be a free agent if they had made it further? However, routing for the Rays made me stop and think again about what I was doing.
This has lead to me following matchups instead of a team. The 2008 ESPN opener with Peavy and Oswalt was wonderful. Don't get me wrong, I don't route for any one team anymore. Instead I find it easier to route against teams or players whom I just don't like. I find it hard to swallow the Yankees as they are currently configured. A-Rod just rubs me the wrong way; I can't quite put my finger on it.
Basketball: I was never much of a basketball fan. I grew up at the tail end of the Magic-Bird days and just in time to see M.J. take over the league. This lead to allegiance to any of the following: LA Lakers, Celtics, Bulls and Pistons. As previously stated, I watched the Knicks. Not a popular choice it seemed.
I found a home in routing for whoever had a chance to win this year. At least four of the Bulls championships came during a time when the league just wasn't equipped to handle M.J. Jordan would take over games that were in doubt and put them away with little to no effort (or so it seemed at the time).
In the years since, I have found myself routing for the Celtics, Pistons, and Spurs. I could never get enough of Shaq's quotes, but also couldn't quite get to the point where I would root for him.
This year, well, this year I am saying the Lakers will win it all. Something about a team that is 10 deep and features one of the best players in the league seems to be appealing to me. However I reserve the right to change my opinion in March, April and May respectively.
Hockey (the NHL kind that is): Watching the Rangers as a kid brought with it the drought. With one cup during my life time they just weren't loaded enough for me to enjoy. The early to mid 90's were dominated for me by the Pittsburgh Penguins. There was something mesmerizing about watching Mario Lemieux play. With time he retired and ended up owning the team so I was left an orphan fan.
That is when I moved on to another popular choice: the Colorado Avalanche. They had some good teams and the playoffs were always compelling. I always thought they would win for nothing other than Patrick Roy in net.
This of course led to the realization that Detroit would have been a much better pick given my criteria. Oh well, I got to route for them many times just to annoy some of my friends who happened to be Bruins fans. What a sad, hapless bunch they are and continue to be as near as I can see.
I think hockey is the closest I will come to not being a complete front runner. The Penguins have WAY too much talent to not win one sooner as opposed to late. Seriously, they are a front runners dream. With that said however, Go WINGS!
NFL Football: I saved this for last as it for me has one of the oddest decisions I have ever made. As a sport, it is easy to route for any team in the NFL because this years amazingly crappy team is next years champion.
Parity plays hell with front runners abilities. I watched the Giants were of course always fun first. Similar to the Derek Jeter game it was fun to see how the Giants would blow the game when it came down to the end.
As I said before parity plays hell with a front-runner's abilities. So I instead decided to route for a coach, Tony Dungy. When I first made this decision, he was head coach in Tampa Bay for the Buccaneers.
After an unfortunate divorce there, he landed in Indianapolis. A team with all the offensive pieces to be great, they just needed a few extra pieces on defense. Dungy brought a scheme with him that helped add that missing piece.
More to the point, Dungy was just an amazing person to watch. His interviews were always interesting and he seemed to get pieces of the strategy of football that nobody else would talk about. Imagine if Rob Neyer over at ESPN suddenly had charisma to go along with his hard numbers.
On a side note, I jumped ship just in time for Jon Gruden to come in and win with the Bucs. That one I sat out from being a front runner. Because of how much I liked Dungy it was hard to route for his old team. A team he seemingly fostered to the point they were at.
Did I celebrate last year's Giants win? You bet. I didn't want any team to be perfect. We'd never hear the end of it. We would also never hear the end of John Madden talking about how great they are and how they would have matched up against one of his Raiders teams.
While I mentioned the Giants and Super Bowl, I routed for Baltimore a few years before. There was no way that group of hacks the Giants sent to the face them had a chance against that defense. I have never seen a defensive unit cause so many teams to have a deer in the head lights look as they did.
I digress, Go Colts (and with them Dungy)! Go Giants! Go whoever else might rise to the playoff occasion!
I finish with the following. I salute the true fans of the Red Sox. The ones who toiled through 86 years of heart breaks to finally come out with that elusive trophy. I do not however, salute the “fans” that jumped on after Game Seven of the 2004 ALCS. That is just poor taste.
Jump on at the celebration parade or not at all! I care not for the "Nation". I care for the people who cried at bars clinging to an old Red Sox hat when the team they had routed for all their lives finally won.
Additionally a front-runner hex on the Heat, Celtics, Rays, Yankees, Patriots and Rams "fans". A true fan of one team is there whether the win loss record is glowing. Just missing the playoffs is better than most teams have done in years. Quite complaining!
My apology if this has dragged out. However when confessing, one must be thorough. Wouldn't you think?